At the beginning of the Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health fellowship, Renee and I were asked to individually outline the top three goals that we wanted to achieve by the end of our fellowship. To help identify my three goals, I brainstormed a list of questions that I wanted to be able to confidently answer by the end of the fellowship. I then grouped the questions into like topics and translated them into actionable goals. For example:
Questions: Are there industry-wide standards for evaluating startups and vendors? How do you quantify, measure, and compare different products and vendors?
Goal: Learn best practices in identifying and evaluating telehealth products, vendors or startups.
Top 5 Evaluation Characteristics to Consider
This past November, I had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with entrepreneurial experts during the speed mentoring sessions at Eric Ries’ Lean Startup Week conference. For the speed mentoring, I was paired with David Bland (Founder & CEO of Precoil), Mike Russell (Strategic Advisor at Agile Tectonics), and Sonja Kresojevic (Partner at Spinnaker). My conversations with Mike and Sonja focused on scaling products throughout an organization, whereas my conversation with David centered on identifying evaluation criteria for products, vendors, and/or startups.
During my conversation with David, I quickly learned that organizations often use a standardized set of criteria to evaluate products, vendors, and startups. Standardizing evaluation criteria allows organizations to objectively compare their options to one another. The following five characteristics were identified as being key characteristics to consider when evaluating products, vendors, and/or startups.
Scalability: A product’s ability to be scaled throughout the organization with minimal additional integration efforts and costs.
Adaptability: A product’s ability to be changed or modified as the organization’s needs or priorities change.
Co-Creation: A startup or vendor’s willingness to work with the organization to co-create and modify the product being used.
Business Acumen: A startup or vendor’s responsiveness and attentiveness to the organization’s business needs.
Reputation: A startup or vendor’s overall reputation and relationship with other clients.
Miscellaneous Words of Wisdom
In addition to the top five characteristics listed above, David shared three additional points to consider. While they do not directly fall into one of the five categories above, they are key factors to consider when evaluating products, vendors, or startups.
Measuring Success from the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to the Final Product: Ensure that metrics are in place to measure and evaluate the five characteristics discussed above throughout the project’s entire timeline.
Data Analytics: When dealing with mobile or web applications, ensure that the application is collecting internal data that can be analyzed and displayed via auto-generated reports. Likewise, the application should have the ability to transmit data outside of the application (to the organization).
Key Stakeholders: Maintain open lines of communication with key stakeholders throughout the duration of the project and ensure that stakeholders are aware of the characteristics you are using to evaluate and measure products, vendors, or startups.
Applying Lessons Learned to My HFA Work
The ability to identify, measure, and evaluate products, vendors, and startups is a critical skill in my work as a HFA fellow supporting the MedStar Telehealth Innovation Center. Whether I’m evaluating vendors for research purposes or narrowing project ideas, a standard set of evaluation criteria is a vital tool for objective comparisons. As I enter into the second half of the ideation phase of the fellowship, I will work to evaluate and test the criteria above as they apply to the two special projects I will pilot test.